Tartine Bakery in Hannam-dong, Seoul
It’s been an age since I actually visited Tartine, but I did want to make a post about it, since there still doesn’t seem much information about it online in English. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a proud owner of the Tartine cookbook, and that the detailed instructions I found inside helped me finally master bread, which I had been trying to do for nearly a decade. I still highly recommend it for anyone who wants to make decent homemade bread but who just can’t seem to get it right. Maybe one day I’ll do a post on how I hacked my toaster oven to produce crusty, bakery-style loaves, but that’s for another time.
Anyway, the point is, I’ve never visited the original Tartine, which was opened in San Francisco in 2002 by Chard Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, but I’ve heard a lot about it. In 2008, Robertson and Prueitt were named the best pastry chefs in America by the James Beard Foundation, but the real drive behind their bakery has always been the bread.
There’s plenty of good pastry to be found in Seoul these days, but bread is still a bit tricky, so I was really excited to hear Tartine would be opening a branch here in the neighborhood next to mine at the beginning of 2018. Robertson even traveled here to coach the team of 30 local bakers and make sure the Seoul branch was up to snuff. The Seoul staff also made a trip to the original Tartine in San Francisco to train before the Hannam-dong store opened.
When the place first opened, people were lining up around the back and dropping as much as 500 thousand won ($500) at a time on bread and pastries, so I waited a solid four or five months to drop by, hoping the hubbub would die down. But the place was still hopping when I went, even though I was there in the early afternoon on a weekday, so unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a seat and enjoy some of the eat-in menu items I was most curious about.
I hopped in the line that looped around out the front door and bought a bag full of pastries and bread to take home instead. I have to say, I went there for the bread, but I was lured in by the tarts, which looked incredible. They were pretty good — I won’t knock them — but for me, as I said, the draw of Tartine is the bread, and in retrospect, I wish I had stuck to my guns and devoted the money I spent on tarts on more bread instead.
The prices are mental. There’s not getting around that, but that’s pretty much what’s to be expected of an American bakery here in Seoul, especially one that’s known for being pretentiously priced even in the US (anarchists threw rocks through the San Francisco branch’s windows during the 2012 May Day workers’ protest while shouting “Yuppies out!” just to give you an idea). You may pay as much as 20,000 won ($20) for a loaf of bread, which is why I’m not exactly dashing over there every Saturday morning to walk out with a bag of the good stuff. But it’s definitely worth a try.
The bread tastes like bread, rather than tasting of nothing, which is something that’s difficult to find even in the US unless you’re in a bigger city. But just as big of a deal is the texture. It’s easy enough to find a baguette in Seoul, but much harder to find one that is an actual baguette, and not just shaped like one, with the kind of rustic crust and crumb that Tartine’s baguettes have.
The tarts have a nice balance of flavor, as compared to some of the tarts you find here in Seoul, which can be overwhelmingly sweet, in my opinion. You can also get some unique flavors that are hard to find elsewhere, like banana pudding and lemon tart. The croissants and other pastries were not on the level with what you can get in Europe, but I’ve found that most other pastry here is either essentially not even pastry or, at some of the European chains, way, way too greasy. I thought Tartine’s struck a nice balance.
I’m most excited to go back and try their dine-in menu, though. They had some interesting looking options, and a quick glance around the place at the plates of the people who were lucky enough to get a table had me intrigued. I will report back once I’ve had a chance to try that side of things.
Overall, Tartine was a little too pricey to be a regular thing for me, but it would definitely do the trick for when I’m just craving the real thing. They more recently opened a coffee and toast bar within the Ryse Hotel in Hongdae, but I haven’t been with. The website says you can get pastries and coffee at the coffee bar, or have a full meal made with Tartine bread at the toast bar.
서울 용산구 한남대로18길 22
22 Hannamdaero 18-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Tel. 02 792 2423
Coffee and Toast Bar at the Ryse Hotel
서울 마포구 양화로 130
130 Yanghwaro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Tel. 02 324 6400
Coffee Bar: Monday-Sunday 7am-9pm
Toast Bar: Monday-Sunday 10am-12am
Click here for the website.
Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.